Summer 2018 driving season may be most expensive since 2014

Thursday’s gasoline price per gallon is on display at the Wawa on West Schuylkill Road in North Coventry. AAA is forecasting gas prices topping $3.00 per gallon in time for the summer driving season.
Thursday’s gasoline price per gallon is on display at the Wawa on West Schuylkill Road in North Coventry. AAA is forecasting gas prices topping $3.00 per gallon in time for the summer driving season. Donna Rovins — Digital First Media
Thursday’s gasoline price per gallon is on display at the Wawa on West Schuylkill Road in North Coventry. AAA is forecasting gas prices topping $3.00 per gallon in time for the summer driving season.
Thursday’s gasoline price per gallon is on display at the Wawa on West Schuylkill Road in North Coventry. AAA is forecasting gas prices topping $3.00 per gallon in time for the summer driving season. Donna Rovins — Digital First Media

PHILADELPHIA >> Like the stock market in recent weeks, gasoline prices across the region have been up and down over the last several months. And while prices may have dipped a bit in the last few days, AAA is forecasting a rise in prices — just in time for the summer driving season.

AAA’s forecasters expect to see gas prices rise toward the end of February or the beginning of March, according to Jana L. Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“Motorists can expect to pay as much as 25 to 35 cents more per gallon,” she said. That would put the average price of gas across Pennsylvania above $3 a gallon.

One of the key drivers behind the projected increases in the northeast according to AAA is Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Gulf coast in August. Because of the hurricane, many refineries that supply the northeast postponed their fall maintenance until spring, which will limit spring production.

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“Any time there is any effect to refining and production, we’ll see an uptick in gas prices,” Tidwell said.

If the projections hold true, AAA’s experts forecast that drivers across Pennsylvania and the country will be paying the highest gas prices since 2014 — but not as high as Pennsylvania’s peak price for that year — $3.81.

AAA experts expect the second quarter to be the most expensive second quarter for gas since 2014, which will lead to the summer driving season — also expected to be the most expensive since 2014.

“We like to be able to give a realistic outlook. So many people plan their year in terms of vacation spending and disposable income, so being able to forecast what it might look like gives people a chance to look ahead,” Tidwell added.

AAA gas price projections are based on predictable market dynamics barring any unforeseen changes in oil markets, financial markets or the political landscape, according to Tidwell.

Tidwell said AAA’s experts work with industry experts that look at the refinery situation, and the oil markets.

“Looking at that helps us forecast somewhat. But then there is always the unknown, so it’s a wait and watch,” she added.

Thursday’s gas average in Pennsylvania was $2.85 per gallon, unchanged overnight and down 3 cents in the last week. The Philadelphia (five-county) area gas average Thursday was $2.83 today, down a penny overnight and down 3 cents in the last week.

Pennsylvania is sixth among the top 10 most expensive states for gas.

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